Course Descriptions: Fall 2021

More information on most courses, including schedule and recommended readings, can be found online as indicated at the end of each description.

Five courses will be presented online. Learn more about equipment you’ll need for online learning in those courses.

All courses begin the week of September 13.

Carol Rutz: Three Cold War Spy Novels

8 Mondays (September 13 – November 1), 9:30-11:30
Online via Zoom, Enrollment limit: 15

Current international tensions echo some of the themes of the Cold War, typically dated from 1946-1991. Concerns include comparative military strength and equipment; international alliances; regional conflicts based in religious and ethnic differences; competition over missions to outer space; and the threat of nuclear war. The resulting instability is further amplified today by ongoing climate change.

During the Cold War, anxieties over political problems were manifest in stories about espionage and international distrust at the highest levels of governments. This course will use John le Carré’s The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1964) as its centerpiece, contrasting the novel with the 1965 film version, available on Amazon Prime and a variety of streaming services. Graham Greene’s Our Man in Havana (1959) will begin the course, and we will end with Donald E. Westlake’s spoof on the genre, The Spy in the Ointment (1972). By revisiting the Cold War through fiction, we may gain useful access to problems facing us in these turbulent times.

For further information, click here

Carol Rutz Executive Director

Carol Rutz retired from Carleton College in 2017 after 30 years; from 1997-2017 she led the Writing Program. She is currently Executive Director of the CVEC.

Ted Johnson: Microbes, Immune Responses, and Emerging Diseases

8 Mondays September 13 – November 1), 1:30-3:30
FiftyNorth 103, Enrollment limit: 20

Microbes such as bacteria and viruses replicate and exhibit unique characteristics which impact our lives in negative or in some cases positive ways. Some microbial diseases can be prevented and most can be treated.

Immune responses are generated to bacterial and viral infections resulting in recovery from the disease and protection against further encounters with that microbe. White blood cells, antibodies and cytokines play an important role in the immune response. Immune responses can also form to cancer cells and to transplanted organs. The immune response can also be harmful by over-reacting or reacting against the body in an autoimmune response.

Emerging or reemerging bacterial and viral diseases impact our lives. What is known about emerging diseases and what factors have led to the origin of these diseases? What is fact and what is fiction? Covid 19 was a worldwide pandemic–are future pandemics possible?

No background in science is needed.

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Ted Johnson taught microbiology and immunology courses at St Olaf College over a 40-year career. He has led four international abroad semesters. His research has centered on the immune response to cancer related to age.

Mike Swift & Gary Wagenbach:The Cannon River Basin-Its Rivers and Lakes: Historical, Scientific, and Contemporary Perspectives

8 Tuesdays (September 14-November 2), 9:30-11:30
Village on the Cannon, Enrollment limit: 20

How can we leave the local and regional Cannon River system, in all its intricacy, in good shape for our grandchildren and their grandchildren? We need to experience it, learn about it, and understand it more deeply in order to love and care for the land and water that feeds the rivers. We explore, especially, the Cannon and Straight rivers, their amazing creatures, roles they play in surrounding communities, their deeper and contemporary history, selected water quality issues, and a vision for the future. Scientific, historical, and personal perspectives will define the focus of the course.

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Mike Swift (left) taught biology, ecology, and environmental studies at six universities from British Columbia to North Carolina, most recently at St. Olaf College. His research focused on aquatic ecology of lakes and rivers, aquatic toxicology, and physiology of aquatic animals. Mike grew up in California and pays close attention to water issues in the Western US. He currently collaborates with Wagenbach investigating the ecology and distribution of freshwater mussels.

Gary Wagenbach (right) taught biology and environmental studies at Carleton College, and studied rivers, especially freshwater mussels. He also has taught and participated in several CVEC courses. Gary grew up in Wisconsin and studied at the University of Wisconsin, learning from lakes and rivers there and later marine habitats in the Atlantic and Pacific.

Tim Madigan: Myths and Music of the 1960s

4 Tuesdays (Sept. 21, 28; Oct. 5, 12), 1:30-3:30
Online via Zoom, Enrollment limit: 12

“We would like to live as we once lived, but history will not permit it.” John F. Kennedy

The 1960s in America was a time of change, conflict, and controversy, as well as a historic moment experienced by all of us over the age of 60. The purpose of this class is to explore the history of the 1960s by touching on the music styles of the era and today’s myths about the 1960s.

The course is not intended to be a complete history of the period, rather an investigation of the major themes of the time and some of the unique aspects of it. The course will include video clips, music, readings, and discussion of provocative issues.

This course is a condensed version of earlier classes: “The Reality & Myths of the 1960s” and “The Sins, Glories and Music of the 1960s.”

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Tim Madigan retired after 35 years in the city management profession in five Minnesota cities, including Northfield and Faribault. He started his professional career as a high school history teacher and also served as an adjunct faculty member at Minnesota State University Mankato.

Andrea Een: “Only Connect”—Two Novels by E.M. Forster and Their Film Versions

8 Wednesdays (September 15 – November 3), 9:30-11:30
Village on the Cannon, Enrollment limit: 20

E.M. Forster (1879-1970) is one of the most celebrated British writers.  We will read two of his finest novels, Howards End from 1908 and Passage to India from 1924. Then we will discuss the excellent films made from these novels, the first (1992) by Merchant-Ivory and the second (1984) by David Lean. We will consider what is gained and lost by these film adaptations.

Both novels deal with the British class system and the conflict of genders in a male-dominated world. They differ in that HE shows an Edwardian England that is fast industrializing and thereby losing its connection to the countryside and its rich cultural past. PTI is a study of one of the last decades of British rule in India and the great gulf between oppressive colonial Brits and their Muslim and Hindu subjects. Mores and cultural attitudes clash regarding religion, purdah, and proper etiquette that leads to comic as well as tragic results.

This is a repeat of a course offered in Winter 2021.

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Andrea Een taught music for 40 years, the last 35 at St. Olaf College. In addition, she performed with the Minnesota Opera Orchestra for 27 years and was a frequent chamber music player and solo player on violin, viola, and the Norwegian Hardanger fiddle. E.M. Forster is her favorite early 20th century novelist.

Daniel Sullivan: Explaining Riddles of Culture—“Cows, Pigs, Wars, and Witches”

8 Wednesdays (September 15 – November 1), 1:30-3:30

Village on the Cannon, Enrollment limit: 20

In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s a sub-field within anthropology called cultural ecology, which continues to the present, began to coalesce. One claim and insight of so-called cultural ecologists was that a great many practices and rituals in primitive and even pretty advanced societies—e.g. Hindus holding cows sacred in India, pig slaughter in New Guinea, forbidding the eating of pork, cannibalism among the Aztec, competitive feasting among Northwest North American Coast native peoples, primitive warfare—have their origins in the practical necessities of life and are related to the economic and competitive success, even survival, of the societies in which they were found. This course will introduce the explanatory framework of cultural ecology and explore multiple case studies in which it was used to explain the origins and survival of seemingly irrational, even bizarre social and cultural practices.

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Daniel Sullivan is a sociologist and President Emeritus of St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York. He has a B.S. in mathematics with a minor in English from St. Lawrence University and a Ph.D. in sociology from Columbia University and is currently the Curriculum Director for CVEC.

John Matthews: Christianity 2.0 – Jesus Re-imagined

8 Thursdays (September 16 – November 4), 9:30-11:30
Online via Zoom, Enrollment limit: 15

This eight-session course will take biblical/historical look at Jesus, beginning in the first century, then to the early Councils of the Church and the Reformation, down to the present post-post-modern time when many traditional, dogmatic ideas are being (re)examined. Included in this course will be discussion about the ways modernity, secularity, and pluralism have changed the ways we understand the Church, the Gospel, and even the Christ. We will look at key biblical texts that have been powerful – yet, at times, problematic – and then sketch what a progressive Christianity 2.0 might look like. This course will be historical, biblical, a little heretical, yet employing respectful creativity!

The only text for this course will be the Bible (in whatever translations and editions students have or prefer).

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Rev. John Matthews is a retired ELCA pastor who also teaches in the religion department of Augsburg University. In addition to seminary study leading to ordination, John continued with graduate work on the life and legacy of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, spending study time also at Yad Vashem (The International Center for Holocaust Education) in Jerusalem. John was a founding member (1990) of the ELCA’s Consultative Panel for Lutheran-Jewish Relations, assisting in the creation of the ‘Declaration of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America to the Jewish Community’ statement of 1994 that is part of the permanent exhibit on anti-Semitism at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. John and his wife, Patty, live in Apple Valley, Minnesota; he also serves as a volunteer chaplain for the Burnsville Police & Fire Departments.

Ed Langerak: Debating Moral Issues

8 Thursdays (September 16 – November 4), 1:30-3:30
Online via Zoom, Enrollment limit: 15

The first main goal of this course is to read and discuss arguments about four controversial moral and political issues. The second is to discuss how to debate such issues with those we disagree with and, I hope, to practice civil disagreements in class. After an overview of some moral principles and virtues that we will see used or implied in the debates, we will look at some of my writings about civil disagreement. Then we will plunge into debates about euthanasia and Aid in Dying, duties toward animals, abortion, and duties toward the environment. The text is The Moral Life, eds. Pojman and Vaughn (more information in the expanded description) which was used in my CVEC course on ethics and literature last fall, though this fall we will focus on completely different chapters. The classes will have a seminar format; I will summarize what I see as some central issues and then participants will be encouraged to comment and question; if all goes well, there will be lively interaction among participants as well as with me.

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Ed Langerak is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at St Olaf College, where he taught for 40 years. He has taught five previous CVEC courses.

Art Higinbotham: A River Runs Through It

8 Fridays (September 17 – November 5), 9:30-11:30
Online via Zoom, Enrollment limit: 15

This course is designed to examine the major river basins and the geopolitical effects climate change will have on these basins. We will consider the effects of increasing temperature, changing precipitation, glacial melting, increased irrigation/urban water usage, and projects affecting river flow and their political ramifications.

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Art Higinbotham

Art Higinbotham has an A.B. from Amherst College in physical chemistry and an S.M. from MIT in chemical engineering. He has served as an instructor in chemical engineering (1960-61), as an engineer with Esso Standard Eastern, Bombay, India (1961-1964), and as an engineer, manufacturing director, technical director, division vice president, and group vice president of 3M Co. (1964-1996), including a stint as engineering and manufacturing manager of 3M Brasil (1969-1973). In retirement, he attended the University of Minnesota Law School (1996-1998).